It was probably inevitable that the Housewives would end up in Las Vegas sometime this season, considering its public perception as the Hyde to SLC’s Jekyll. The actual truth is more complicated—for one thing, there are a lot of Mormons in the Vegas suburbs—but a girls’ trip is still the perfect chance for this show to set off more emotional fireworks. For all of the hype about Sundance, this is the real chance for the cast to let loose and live lavishly. 

Before (most of) the cast embarks on their weekend getaway, we spend time on some of the show’s season-long plotlines. At Whitney’s house, her half brother Will and sister Shaylee are coming over for dinner with their dad Steve, who is still in recovery for prescription drug addiction. Whitney says this is the first time they have all been together for 10 years, and everyone is apprehensive about the night. These are the moments that make me most uncomfortable with the show. Even though the show treats Steve’s addiction issues sympathetically, it still feels invasive to watch this intimate family moment, especially when Whitney’s family probably feels less desire for reality TV fame than she does. Ethical queasiness aside, it’s nice to see Whitney’s family rally around Steve, and this narrative is definitely the show’s most flattering to Whitney. 

A much more delightful invasion of privacy is a double date with Jen, Sharrief, Heather and Big Daddy, Sharrief’s best friend. Jen, realizing that Heather feels insecure about their friendship, decides to make a nice gesture and sets Heather up on this date. Heather, who is steadfast in her commitment to being openly horny at all times, accepts.

I could watch an entire series of Heather’s charmingly bizarre flirting, which in this case begins with a handshake and “You’re in big trouble, buddy.” Heather is excited at first, because Big Daddy (or Big Easy or Keith) checks off every item on her wishlist—tall, dark, handsome and alive. Soon, though, Heather discovers that the chemistry is nonexistent. Big Daddy orders a Shirley Temple and Sprite, to the chagrin of good-Mormon-gone-bad Heather. While Jen tries to be a good wing-woman and facilitate conversation, Big Daddy is fascinated by the carrot in his drink. Then, he rambles for more than an hour about being a student athlete advocate, whatever that means. Heather graciously turns down the offer to order dessert and less graciously rejects plans to go salsa dancing, though she does offer to buy Big Daddy a Slurpee on the way home. The double date did more to solidify the connection between Jen and Heather than Heather and her date—”She did a really nice thing inviting me to this sober TED talk,” Heather giggles in a confessional. The night is a definite loss for Heather’s romantic life, but it does confirm my opinion that she’s the most consistently entertaining cast member.

As the Housewives are increasingly divided into small cliques, Whitney, queen of poor judgment, decides to invite everyone on a girls’ trip in the name of group healing. Even the usually supportive Justin seems skeptical, but Whitney moves forward anyway. We get a montage of text messages on screen in a visual style best described as “early 2000s teen movie.” Heather and Jen, who keeps calling herself, with increasing desperation, the “CEO of fun,” quickly accept. Meredith feels less enthused—she’s a little too sophisticated for the Strip—but, realizing her other option is listening to Brooks complain about his diet for three days, decides to join. Lisa, still miffed after the Top Golf party, is undecided. And Mary, realizing that Jen is coming, declines, saying she would “rather have a plane full of mice than to be in Vegas with Jen.” This is probably good news for the other Housewives, but bad news for us, because the most recent episodes have had a critically low shortage of Mary’s insanity. We need Mary to suck it up and plan another bonkers luncheon—it’s for the common good!

Preparing for the trip, Heather shows off her Vegas pants, which combine animal print and racing stripes in the least subtle way imaginable. She also warns her daughter that she might bring home a “new daddy,” who she describes, in a British-lite accent, as a “top notch gambler.” Brooks, who is even more snobbish than Meredith, calls Las Vegas the “prostitution capital of the world.” Jen, really leaning into her hype girl persona, says that she’s “the person who gets along with everybody,” which even poor Stu Chainz doesn’t buy. Arriving at the airport, two things are immediately clear: Whitney has a new wig and Lisa is not with the group. As a fellow type-A party planner, I relate to Whitney’s frustration, especially when Lisa screens Whitney’s calls but informs Meredith that she is already in town for work. Whitney gets revenge with a truly devastating insult after trying to impersonate Lisa in the confessional—”I can’t even do it because I can’t look like I’m taking a shit and being sexy at the same time.” Damn! 

The budget for this trip is high, and the women get VIP treatment at the Nomad Las Vegas. VIP treatment includes, apparently, an original poem from one of the hotel employees. I am writing this recap as a ghost because I died from secondhand embarrassment, but Heather, God bless her, loves it. Whitney then announces her first big plan for the trip: exotic car racing! The problem: Jen has already planned to surprise Heather with a private shopping trip, so neither of them can join. Whitney, who was already feeling distant from Meredith and Lisa before the trip planning shenanigans, feels nervous. Lisa, meanwhile, conveniently reminds Meredith (and viewers) that she and Whitney have had weird passive-aggressive tension since the beginning of the series. 

On the ride to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, all three women sit in awkward silence. Lisa starts to warm up, though, when she gets to the track and shows off her love of fancy cars. (“I can put up with Whitney for a Ferrari,” she explains.) After talking a big game, Lisa is not exactly a daredevil—in an inspired bit of physical comedy, the instructor frequently asks Lisa to speed up while she, expressionless, maintains a tight 70 miles per hour. The time alone with Lisa and Meredith does give Whitney the chance to explain herself. She starts, as Lisa and Meredith have been waiting for, with an apology. The two take the chance to remind Whitney that she stepped out of line, especially when the information came from an unreliable source: Mary. After they get their piece in, both women forgive Whitney, though it’s clear they aren’t ready to become best girlfriends.

While Lisa, Meredith and Whitney negotiate a truce, Heather and Jen pick at old wounds during their shopping spree. The trip starts out well—the two women pick out overpriced shoes, Jen finds a fabulous green patterned suit and Heather feels appreciated by Jen, even if Jen is buying twice as much as her. Then, out of the blue, Jen reiterates her frustration with Whitney. Heather is confused because she thought that the two women had made up, but Jen is still upset about the birthday party, and she gets even angrier when Heather tries to defend her cousin. (“Are you blaming Whitney for you throwing the glass?” Heather asks pointedly.) Jen still feels that Whitney made the wrong call and should have understood the consequences of her pointed accusations. “Whitney, you want to be a big girl? Then come to the big girl table. Stop sitting at the kiddie table eating chicken nuggets, Whitney. Eat caviar, bitch,” Jen says. Heather is exhausted by Jen’s constant loyalty tests, correctly pointing out that she would rather have a henchman than a friend. After thoroughly souring a nice afternoon, Jen says that Heather’s reputation is on the line because of Whitney. Heather, drained from the endless drama, is speechless.

It’s clear that this is mostly a warm up episode for an eventual blow up, and we haven’t even gotten to the first night yet. Still, there are plenty of entertaining moments as the laundry list of alliances and grudges grows increasingly complicated and the first season finale is only a couple of weeks away.

 

Random observations:

  • Has Mary Cosby left her walk-in closet since last March? Do we need to send in a professional?  
  • In a damning indictment of the health food industry, Brooks is most excited to eat jerky that turns out to be dog food. 
  • It never occurred to me before, but Sharrief and Heather make a lot of sense as friends. They both are similarly dorky and good-natured.
  • I’m a person who is self-conscious about even slightly over-packing, so Jen’s many, many suitcases give me deep anxiety.
  • Modeling her new outfit, Jen says, “You can’t buy the tits because my plastic surgeon retired” and then falls off the bar. Glamorous! 

Read our cover story on Lisa Barlow here.